Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Little network that could continues to build successful Uplifting Entertainment brand. GMC TV says it will debut the Easter-themed telefilm The Carpenter’s Miracle, on Saturday, March 30 at 7:00 PM with encore showings at 9:00 PM and 11:00 PM that same night. The movie, which stars Cameron Mathison (All My Children), Michelle Harrison, Sarah-Jane Redmond (Smallville), Adrian Holmes (Smallville, True Justice) and Ryan Grantham (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) will also be shown the following night (Sunday, March 31) at the same times.

Here’s the plot as described in a GMC TV press release:

Based on Judd Parkin’s screen adaptation of his own novel and directed by K. T. Donaldson, The Carpenter’s Miracle tells the tale of a humble small-town handyman, Josh Carey (Mathison), who finds himself at the center of media attention after attempting to resuscitate 12-year-old Luke Quinn (Grantham), the victim of a drowning accident. When the boy shows no signs of life for an hour, Josh consoles Luke’s mother, Sarah (Harrison), in the emergency room. But when he lightly touches the boy with his hand while offering a heavenward wish, the boy is suddenly revived.

Many in the town consider it a miraculous act. But Josh is not religious and doesn’t believe he had anything to do with Luke’s recovery, even after he seems to heal several others in the following days. When local coverage of the story catches the eye of national tabloid news producer Jack Reardon (Holmes), he dispatches his most aggressive reporter, Delia Tynan (Redmond) to try to land an exclusive interview with Josh, Sarah and Luke. Although they politely decline her cash offers, Delia is relentless—to the point of potentially disrupting a blossoming relationship between Josh and Sarah. But when Josh learns his elderly mother needs expensive emergency surgery, he must make a decision that could change his life and the lives of those he cares about most.

An Entertainment One (eOne) production, The Carpenter’s Miracle also stars Stephen E. Miller (“Da Vinci’s Inquest”), Candus Churchill, Aaron Pearl (“Intelligence”), Alex Sparling and Donna White. The film is produced by Randolph Cheveldave (Goodnight for Justice, “First Wave”).

The movie is based on Parkin’s novel The Carpenter’s Miracle which actually had a Christmas theme.  The network, however, requested that the story be adapted for an Easter-time telecast and the author agreed. “It’s hard to find entertaining, contemporary films that evoke the spirit of Easter,” GMC V.P. Barbara Fisher explains. “We talked to Judd and he agreed it could work as well, if not better, as an Easter story.”

It’s hoped that The Carpenter’s Miracle will build on a successful string of made-for-TV films (including the recent hit Christmas Angel) that has encouraged the network, once known just for its gospel music-themed programming, to extend into other genres — including regular series.

GMC’s past, present and future. I just had the opportunity to speak with GMC TV Vice Chairman Brad Siegel about the networks roots, its steady climb in the ratings and what viewers can expect to see from it in the future. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

JWK: I’ve interviewed Charley Humbard, the CEO of GMC TV for this blog. What’s it like with the son of a famous televangelist to launch and build a TV network?

BRAD SIEGEL: Charley and I met back in late 2003, around Thanksgiving of 2003…I had just left Turner Broadcasting. I was the president of all the entertainment networks there…As it turned out, I knew Charley’s sister very well because her husband worked with me. Her husband ran the studios and network operations at Turner. Dan and I had worked together for several years. I had heard about Charley over the years and Liz always wanted us to meet. She always felt we would get along…We really hit it off.  A mutual friend, an investment banker, asked if I would help Charley to develop the business plan…We (Charley and I) worked from November through April of 2004 on building this plan…We had such a good time working together that we decided to partner on what was then Gospel Music Channel and now is GMC – Uplifting Entertainment. It has been for the last two years.

So, it’s been great working with Charley…We come from very different backgrounds. Charley’s from the Midwest and the son of Rex Humbard. I’m from New York and the son of a factory worker. So, our backgrounds were really different but I think we both have  the belief that entertainment can have  a higher calling and can be more than just about entertaining people — that it has the ability to move people to do better things and to uplift them and, on a really good day, to inspire them. I have a track record of championing programming at Turner that did that — whether it was Door to Door or the civil rights movie Freedom Song or Buffalo Soldiers…I always enjoyed and, I think, had an affinity for telling stories about people who go through tremendous change and then overcome adversity. I’ve always had a natural affinity for the underdog.

And (my relationship with Charley) is really about mutual respect and a mutual vision and belief, sort of a world view of believing that entertainment has the ability to transform lives and to uplift people. We’re in mutual agreement that there are so many places that people can go for entertainment that entertains by breaking down the human spirit rather than building it up. We want to build a network that’s about building people up.

JWK: GMC started out as primarily a music video network but you’re now into various genres of television. Was that always the plan?

BRAD SIEGEL: No, it wasn’t. Well, first of all, videos were actually a minority of the kinds of programming we had. We did live concerts, we did our own show called Gospel Dream which was a (Gospel spin on) American Idol. We did a show called Faith and Fame which was a biography series. We did a lot of different shows that (focused) on popular artists. Music videos were just a small part of what we did…But as we got Nielsen rated and also as we continued to interview and poll our viewers, we heard aboundingly, almost to a person, that people loved what we were doing and loved the ethos of the programming but they really wanted something more than just music. They wanted music in the morning or late at night or on special occasions. They really wanted the same subtext and the same values…They wanted to see that in movies and in dramatic series and in comedies and in a lot more genres than just music programming…That’s why we expanded beyond just. We first moved into inspirational movies and then inspirational plays or gospel plays and then reality series. We continue to do music specials like the Dove Awards. We’re developing a series of specials around the WOW compilation series. WOW is a bestselling DVD compilation of the best of Gospel and Christian music…Music shows will continue to be an important part of what we do. I continues to be on our schedule but I think what we’ve done is to take our roots and our DNA and make sure that they’re part of a lot of the programming we do.

JWK: How about old-fashioned Christmas specials. I think that’s something people kind of miss.

BRAD SIEGEL: Last year we produced a show called A Very Special Christmas. It was the definitive story of the big-selling Christmas music compilation that was done for the Special Olympics. It had stars like Bono, Jordin Sparks, Stevie Wonder, Darius Rucker, Train and Bon Jovi. So, really every major star you can think of. We’ll have that again this coming Christmas. Also, last year we did a movie called Christmas Angel. It did phenomenally well. It had 6.3 million viewers. It worked every single time we ran it. This year we have two Christmas movies that we’re producing. It’s the first time we’ve done two (Christmas) movies. We’ve just wrapped production on a movie starring Drew Lachey. That’s a really fun movie that we shot. And we’re just now going into production on (another film).  It’s a wonderful Christmas movie that has a great Salvation Army focus to it. So, we have two great Christmas movies.

(More immediately) is Easter. I don’t think there’s a single network that honors Easter the way that we do.

JWK: What are your plans?

BRAD SIEGEL: The Carpenter’s Miracle (is) our first original Easter movie. It was written by a friend of ours, Judd Parkin who, incidentally,  produced our highest-rated movie or miniseries ever — Jesus with Jeremy Sisto. He also produced Nicholas’ Gift. (The Carpenter’s Miracle) is about how faith changes lives.  The main character is an average carpenter. His name is Josh. He lives in a small town in Minnesota and he miraculously brings a young boy who had fallen into icy water back to life. Everybody had valiantly tried to save his life. He was taken to the hospital and is now DOA. Josh is consoling his mother. And then, as he’s leaving the hospital, he turns back  and walks back to the young man and touches him…All of a sudden we see this young man spitting up water and come back to life. And everybody in the town, in the hospital…is declaring it a miracle. It becomes a media story and everyone is promoting it as the  feel-good Easter story of the year. And Josh is very reluctant about this. He’s not particularly a person of faith yet…It’s a really fantastic movie. I think the Beliefnet audience will love it.  We’re also bringing back our miniseries Jesus with Jeremy Sisto. We’ve got The Book of Ruth, Jeremiah, Judas, The 10 Commandments and in the next few days we’ll be announcing the addition of five other favorite major Easter-time movies. We don’t just celebrate Easter but the entire Holy Week.

JWK: What’s the outlook for your reality pilot I Forgive You?

BRAD SIEGEL: We love that show. We’re looking at different ways that we may tweak it and bring it back next season. But we have two other series that are coming to the network. One is called The Bulloch Family Ranch. It will be coming this summer…And the other show and it has to do with miracles…It’s a special that we’re looking at as a series…We’re so happy with the way things are going on the pilot that we sort of rejiggered and said we want to air this as a special and then we’ll roll it out as a series.

JWK: What’s The Bulloch Family Ranch about?

BRAD SIEGEL: The Bulloch Family Ranch is about Julie and Rusty Bulloch who have adopted or sort of fostered 25 kids…They take these kids in and the kids at their parents’ request …and give them a home, give them trust, give them love, give them faith and faith in themselves and gets them on the road to being productive kids. In fact, one of them has become a starter for the New York Jets.

JWK: A little bit of a reality version of The Blind Side going on there.

BRAD SIEGEL: A little bit. It’s a colorful family. That premieres in July.

JWK: Where do you see GMC TV being in five years?

BRAD SIEGEL: I see it, number one, as a destination for everybody — particularly moms — who see faith and values as an important part of how they run their lives…It is a channel that they check out before they check out any other television network — that it is prominent in their minds (and) is something that they talk about with their friends. I see us producing an original movie every month and doing almost two original movies every month in five years. A see us having at least two or three nights of all original series programming and I see GMC — Uplifting Entertainment  as the network that the entire faith community holds up and says “This is what television should be…and why aren’t more people making value-affirming programming like GMC does?”

JWK: So Number One!

BRAD SIEGEL: Number one!

Comment: I’m told that Cablevision of Long Island is the only major cable distributor not currently offering GMC TV to their customers. Get on the ball, guys! Do you really think Long Islanders don’t want this kind of programming? I can tell you that’s not the case.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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